Here's a link to my annual running coats pages. I do one at the start of every New year, looking back at the previous year's costs.
Hopefully it provides some idea of how cheaply you can sail and gives a few people the enthusiasm to give it a try. Sailing doesn't have to be a rich man's hobby.
2013 £181.19 (Includes getting the boat but was offset by selling some gear to pay for it all)
The highest annual total so far is just over £600 for the year, approximately £50 a month which isn't a lot at all considering that's everything: mooring, insurance, fuel, varnish, wood stain and luxuries like a solar panel.
You really can go sailing on the cheap. Okay, I'm not making Trans-Atlantic voyages (I'm doing well if I get from Langstone to Cowes once a year!), but I do sail as much as I can and sailing round the sheltered waters of Langstone harbour is enough of a potter to keep me happy. I can definitely waste a day doing that!
There are some handy tips I can give about keeping costs down. The prime rule is: Avoid Chandlers and Marinas wherever possible. The hooray Henrys with their bottomless wallets have made the professional marine industry a very expensive one, especially at the Premium end of the scale. They have pontoon marina moorings, haul the boat out on a Marina hard standing every winter, get the boat serviced and anti-fouled by the marina at the same time. I'm not knocking them, they keep the marine industry going. Fair play to them and thank you for keeping the industry going and supplying me (eventually) with cheap used parts.
There are ways to get similar services at less cost, of course there are. Like joining a sailing club, or compromising on the mooring.
Not all of my purchases are used, there are ways to get brand new parts cheaply too. Aldi and Lidl, help here. Their automotive and camping special buys provide all manner of items vastly cheaper than chandlers. Fire extinguishers and Fire Blankets from Lidl are just as good quality but a fraction of the price. 12v extension sockets, some with USB sockets provide connections for equipment. Accessories that show the time, temperature and the battery voltage are available for under a fiver. Why spend lots on marine-specific instruments?
Boat jumbles provide cheap marine parts. Rope is dirt cheap, so are fenders. Go and haggle with the stall holders to get a bargain.
eBay is by far my biggest resource. If you are after something specific, set a price in your head and don't deviate from it. It's the same principle as for a live auction. eBay is so popular the same part will eventually come up at a price you feel is right. Sniping (bidding in the last few seconds of an auction) is a skill that needs to be honed here: overbidding with 2 seconds to go doesn't give the other guy time to react with a new bid. Just make sure your computer's clock is set accurately! It may take months, but eventually you'll get that bargain. The sense of achievement at getting a part for silly money is great. It's like being a hunter and finally getting your prey.
I've modified my approach to ebay now (as detailed here) and without going into too much detail I take a stealthy approach to items, making sure I don't start a bidding war by tipping off eBay's algorithms that the part is wanted. That way I hopefully avoid multiple bids on an items pushing the price up. Best bargain on eBay I've seen was a fully equipped Seawych for £200. It just needed an engine.
With the popularity of Facebook now reaching even the most aged of Sailors there are now Buy and Sell Groups and Advice groups springing up on a regular basis which all helps the cash strapped amongst us. Maybe we won't be buying complete boats, but certainly there are parts bargains to be had.
As for other social media sites, I'm not convinced Twitter has much value for the Skint Sailor, except maybe for finding boat jumbles that are not advertised nationally. I doubt Instagram has any value at all. Leave that one to the kids and their selfies.....
Gumtree is another buy & sell site. It reminds me of the old free ads papers and tends to not have too many bargains. But never say never; they've been on there, it's just I've only found out about them after the fact.
Finally having a bash at things yourself is always worth a try. You might surprise yourself at how well you do. The internet is a vast resource and someone, somewhere will have had the same problem, fixed it, written about it and put it up on t'internet.
Skint Sailing... It's great. Why not try it? Come over to the Skint Side.... :-)